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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain


Public Sector pay

by New Worker correspondent

THE UNIONS were uncharacteristically united at outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May’s announcement of a £2 billion pay rise for public sector workers.

The TUC’s General Secretary, Frances O’Grady, did an Oliver Twist act and respectfully doffed her cap to remark: “After years of pay cuts, every public sector worker deserves a proper pay rise. But this mustn’t come from existing budgets. Public services are at breaking point. Our public services need extra funding to deliver real pay increases for hard-working public servants. This can’t be another case of robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

Speaking for Unite the Union, Assistant General Secretary Gail Cartmail, took a firmer line by saying that: “Millions of hard working public servants will not be fooled by this last gasp attempt by a failed government and a failed prime minister to curry favour with an austerity hit workforce that has had to deliver essential services against the backdrop of savage cuts.

“Read the small print and there is no new money from the government for these below inflation pay rises which exclude nearly two thirds of public sector workers, including health and those in local government, who have endured years of pay freezes and real terms pay cuts.

“If Theresa May was serious about recognising the invaluable contribution the country’s public servants make to the lives of millions each day then she would have offered a properly funded pay rise which tackled the pay misery of the last nine years of a Tory government”. As if things were wonderful under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown!

Unison, the largest union for public sector workers, responded by pointing out that “for almost a decade, the wages of public sector workers have been hit hard by the government’s austerity agenda. The incomes of NHS, council, police and school staff will be a long time in recovery from years of pay caps and wage freezes.

“The Prime Minister appears motivated by concerns for her legacy, not by a genuine desire to repair this damage. Any extra money must be for all public servants, and the government must stump up the extra cash for any pay increase”.

minority

The smaller union GMB union pointed out that only a minority in the public sector would benefit. The 2.9 per cent rise, at a time when inflation is at 3.1 per cent, means that most of the reported increases will amount to yet another real terms pay cut.

Rehana Azam, a GMB National Secretary also pointed out that this so-called ‘bonanza’ is not funded by new money and gives nothing to millions of school support staff, most civil servants, and those working in local government.

“We’ve been here before — a big announcement about the end of austerity, and then when you get underneath it all it’s just smoke and mirrors.

Garry Graham for Prospect, the union of mainly high-caste civil servants, deplored the fact civil servants had been excluded from this ‘magnificent bounty’.

“There has never been a government in peace-time so reliant on the hard work and professionalism of the civil service and the coming months will prove even more challenging,” he said.

“Against that backdrop it is astounding that the Prime Minister has not seen fit to recognise the hard work of the civil service which has worked so hard and diligently to support the government. Pay in the wider economy is rising at 3.6 per cent but yet again we find that the civil service has been singled out for the harshest of treatment amongst public sector workers.

“With MPs receiving a 2.7 per cent increase in April, these double standards will smack of hypocrisy and either ignorance or disdain for what the civil service does. Hardworking public servants deserve better”.

Graham also pointed out that about 55 per cent of public sector are not covered by a pay review body. While police officers, the armed forces, teachers, dentists and others will receive pay rises of at least 2.5 per cent the civil service pay remit guidance has been set at just 1-2 per cent in 2019-20 (unless a further business case is submitted and agreed to).